As you can see from the first sentence, it’s easy to imagine that they can be used for different purposes. Let's take a look at the specifications of each library and the differences between them. Then figure out which one is better.
One of its main characteristics is speed - it can be used to build high-performance applications to non-blocking I/O API and single-threaded event looping. What’s also great is the fact that the application can be run within Node.js runtime on macOS, Windows, and Linux - without changing the source code.
Let’s take a look at the main advantages of Node.js:
- Easy scalability
Node.js is easily scalable mainly because of its nature (being asynchronous and event-driven). It offers excellent maintenance of long-running connections with just a single thread with an event loop switched between listening for data and handling the current requests.
Additionally, it offers non-blocking I/O, which makes it efficient and fast. It makes Node.js an interesting source for web servers.
Even more interesting is that microservices can be easily implemented using this framework, boosting the application's scalability.
- Learning curve
- High performance
When compared to other server-side scripting languages, Node.js is very fast. It was mentioned already in point number one.
Node.js offers a great community of experienced engineers, which is essential nowadays.
Node.js has a significant advantage in caching - it simply allows you to store data or files locally on your computer and access it quickly whenever needed. It’s a game-changer for high-traffic websites.
- Time & money
Since Node.js uses the same language for the frontend and backend, it can dramatically decrease the time and cost needed to develop any application.
Node.js is excellent for creating cross-platform applications as you can package your app into executable files for many operating systems without recompiling the code.
Last but not least - Node.js comes with a native tool for installing and managing different packages on the internet.
At the same time, some of the disadvantages of Node.js include:
- Problems with API
This is one of the biggest issues - a lot of users are reporting the fact that APIs are unstable and you need to pay extra attention to it whenever migrating between different versions of Node.js.
- Library Support System
Node lacks strong support of libraries, so very often has to rely on third-party solutions to do things that are not possible within the original scope of Node.js functionalities.
- Asynchronous programming model
It’s often mentioned that the asynchronous programming model can cause problems with debugging the application and may be considered a drawback by some engineers.
Let’s take a look at the main advantages which made it so popular among engineers worldwide:
React.js uses Virtual DOM, which allows for creating web applications faster. It compares the previous state of the component and updates only the items that were changed as opposed to updating all of the components again.
- Reusable components
A single application consists of many components that have their logic and controls and can be easily reused within the system - which again reduces the development and maintenance time.
- Unidirectional data flow
When designing React.js apps, you often nest child components within the parent one. And since the data flows in a single direction, it’s easier to debug errors.
- Learning curve
It’s great for both mobile and web applications. There is a framework - React Native, that is based on React that is getting more popular for creating mobile applications.
React.js offers great dedicated tools for debugging - a chrome extension developed by Facebook will help you with that.
As always, every framework library has some drawbacks. Let’s take a look at the downsides of React.js:
- High pace of development
Since React.js is constantly developed, some people may treat it as a disadvantage, as engineers need to constantly update their knowledge about this library.
It is often said that the documentation of React.js could be better - it’s strictly connected with the point above - the pace of its development makes it hard to document everything properly.
- Other technologies involved
Since React.js is taking care mainly of the view part of the app, you still will need other tools to create the rest of the application.
When to choose React or Node.js?
Once we have listed the good and bad sides of both technologies, let’s try to figure out what are the best use cases for both of them - as it is evident that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution when it comes to technology.
This may not answer the question of “which is better”, as there is none. It all comes down to business requirements, the specification of the application itself, and sometimes to the engineering team composition.
- Best use cases for Node.js:
Let’s take a look at the best use cases for using Node.js technology:
- Streaming web applications
- Real-time Chat-bots
- Big data and analytics solutions
- Single Page Applications
- Apps using Microservices Architecture
- Web extraction and automation tools
- IoT solutions
- At the same time, React.js is great for:
- Social Media applications
- Messaging applications
- E-Commerce applications
- Data visualization tools
As you can easily see, the types of use cases are different for each technology, so it’s hard to say one is better than the other. It all comes down to details, that’s why - as always - we are suggesting consulting experienced engineers (like our team at Sunscrapers) that will help you analyze your idea and (what’s even more critical) your plans for the future to make the best choice.
And remember - there is also a possibility to use both Node.js and React.js simultaneously and take the best benefits from both technologies.